Well, the basic premise is pretty straight-forward. (Here’s a hint–the title totally gives it away!) Everything But the Kitchen Sink is a grab-bag of historical coverage, food by category like breakfast or snacks, food science, and the inevitable gross-out moments, like edible grubs, rattlesnakes, durian and stinky tofu.
Do you want to try your hand at matching diner lingo to more mundane phrasing, like “cowboy with spurs” to “Western omlet with french fries?” Curious about traditions and superstitions surrounding chopsticks, the origins of Caesar salad, or what they drank with breakfast in medieval England? Want to find out how to make an omlet in a bag, or dancing raisins? You’ll find all of this and more. What you won’t find is a structure particularily conducive to report writing. Not that that’s a bad thing–this one’s purely a fun, browsing book. There is an index, but the chapter categories are fairly arbitrary, and the information inside is more focused on the minutiae of trivia, and quick generalizations. I’m usually kind of a snob about the visuals in my kids’ nonfiction–I love me lots of shiny, relevant photos, I do–but the bright, cartoon illustrations fit well with the breezy style of the text. Also, the ending is a bit abrupt, finishing up with astronaut food and nary a paragraph of concluding remarks to be seen.
My biggest issue with the book is not so much a criticism as an observation. Despite having two Canadian authors, it is SO American, written from a perspective presupposing that the reader is American with very much a “here in the United States…” kind of viewpoint. Since it was published under Scholastic and not Scholastic Canada, I’m guessing it was purely a marketing decision. (And I can forgive the lack of Canadian food, since at least it’s not the usual mishmash we see from American publishers all the time of Canadian cuisine being fiddleheads, nanaimo bars and tortiere–but the only food mentioned at all is grunt pudding. Grunt pudding?? Apparently, it’s a thick fruit pudding that grunts as it’s steamed, due to escaping air. Okay, guys, shoulda gone with the nanaimo bars.)
Although it never really progresses past the random collection of cool facts, this is a fun book, stuffed full of bite-sized bits of info (no pun intended), tons to fascinate the trivia-minded, and quizzes and matching games to add an interactive element.